The police will have a lot of explaining to do on the injuries sustained by at least 10 demonstrators in front of the US Embassy on Wednesday, when a van rammed into a number of protesters, who were reportedly trying to flip over the vehicle. But this will not prevent hostile and imprudent speculation that the march had President Duterte’s tacit approval and support.
This was the first violent anti-US incident following DU30’s verbal assaults on the US, whose President he had called the “son of a whore” for showing official interest in the drug killings in the Philippines. The incident happened while DU30 was on his four-day state visit to China, where he again criticized the US.
In a speech to the Filipino community in Beijing, he said the Philippines had gained little from its long alliance with the US, which colonized his country for 50 years after Spain had colonized it for nearly 400 years. “Your stay in my country was mainly for your own benefit. So time to say goodbye, my friend,” he said, addressing the US.
The US embassy march
DU30 may not have been entirely aware that some of his supporters would march on to the US embassy. But they obviously wanted to show support for his anti-US stance, and be on the same page with him. How the US will respond is not easy to say. But it is safe to assume the US will always act as a world power. Following Newton’s third law of motion—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—there will be consequences.
What DU30 will do to the US would ultimately decide what the US will do to protect its own interests, both as a longtime Philippine ally and as the principal military power in the Asia Pacific. Now, despite DU30’s strong words about “breaking away” from the US, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Commission on Appointments that DU30 has not said one word to the Cabinet about the latest status of military agreements with the US. So the picture remains blurred. In Beijing, DU30 said there would be no breaking off of old military alliances with anyone, and no entering into new military alliances with anyone either.
It is typical of DU30 to say something on one occasion, declare the opposite on another, and go back to the first proposition later. So he tends to leave everyone guessing. But the more dependable indicator of his ultimate direction would be those activities where he seeks to involve the entire government and stake his own life and honor. His war on drugs and the summary killings of drug suspects seem to illustrate this only too well. He does not seem to mind that the daily killings of drug suspects have become the staple of the mass media these last four months.
Preparing Filipinos for more deaths
These daily killings have caused some analysts to suggest that they have less to do with eradicating the illegal drug problem, and more to do with creating a climate of fear among the citizens and “desensitizing” them to the sight of dead bodies piling up everywhere—in preparation for the possibility of more killings happening in the near future should public order completely break down. This could happen should the communists take over, and the people rise against the government.
Analysts have suggested that the police should know the existence of at least three large illegal drug laboratories in the country—one in Arayat, one in Calabarzon, and one in Maguindanao. But despite DU30’s high-profile anti-drug campaign, in which close to 4,000 have already been killed, only the lab in Arayat has been raided and closed down, without any arrests or any large illegal drugs haul.
Unusual police encounters with so-called “vigilantes” have also been reported without any fatalities, prompting the same analysts to wonder whether the encounters were real or simply staged to produce some phony stories for the newspapers. Some reports have placed the fatalities in the current narcotics war at 1,323 and counting, killed in “legitimate police operations,” and 2,233 and counting, killed by “vigilantes.” But until now not a single vigilante has been unmasked and arrested.
There is a growing suspicion that the NPA is already being utilized in DU30’s anti-drugs campaign. Some conscience-stricken police officers are dismayed that their superiors are, according to them, not interested in the number of drug users giving themselves up for possible rehabilitation; “they are simply interested in the body count,” one source said, “the more dead bodies the better.”
Evasco’s national movement for change
As troubling as the drug killings have become, “the best” from the DU30 coalition government with the Left is yet to come. Under the leadership of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr., who supervises 12 strategic government agencies, the government has launched a well-funded, barangay-based, nationwide “Kilusang Pagbabago” (Movement for Change), which seeks to create a personality cult around DU30 as a “socialist President” and bring about a socialist state in the Philippines.
Evasco is a former Catholic priest who joined the NPA in the ‘70s. He was arrested and prosecuted by Duterte, but became the latter’s closest confidante in Davao upon his release. In 2007, he was elected mayor of Maribojoc, Bohol, where he served until 2016, when DU30 asked him to run his presidential campaign. Since then he was reported to have gathered the married ex-priests around the country, a number of whom had already joined the NDF, in an attempt to explore the possibility of organizing a parallel church in the Philippines, similar to the “Patriotic Church” in China.
However, the Kilusan is free from any religious color. Evasco gave a preview of his Kilusan in a recent assembly in Cebu, but the basic document on the Kilusan, which came to me yesterday, reveals that it is a nationwide mass indoctrination movement, starting in Luzon. The Kilusan describes itself as an organization of citizens waging war on drugs and criminality, all forms of corruption in government, rule of the oligarchy, and foreign intervention. It will promote patriotism and nationalism, active citizen participation in governance, just and lasting peace, the eradication of poverty and establishment of federalism.
It will act as watchdog against corruption, educate the citizens on the programs of government for the nation, protect them from natural disasters, calamities, and criminality, terrorism, and foreign intervention. It will guarantee that the government’s programs reach the citizens and that they benefit from them. It will draw the core of its membership from workers, farmers, students, teachers, indigenous peoples, the unemployed, the OFWs and their families, and government workers.
Creating a socialist state
The Kilusan’s basic document points out the need for as many government functionaries as possible to become like DU30 in his practice of socialism in all aspects of governance. It is not enough to have socialist barangay councilmen, captains, mayors, governors, senators; there should be no let-up in the Kilusan’s effort to transform the government, the document points out.
On DU30’s complaint against the “intervention” of the US, the European Union and the United Nations in his government’s internal affairs,” on the issue of the drug killings, the Kilusan says it needs deeper studies on the role of the US in the nation’s affairs, and how to get out of American influence and control. We need to pursue our own industrialization so that we could stand on our own feet, the document said. Obviously, it also needs to understand that no state may execute any of its citizens without due process, and claim it as a purely “internal” matter, in which other states may not intervene.
On the eradication of poverty, the gravest problem confronting Philippine society, the Kilusan paper has almost nothing to say, except this: “Of course, we need to understand why so many are poor. From here, we need to promote an advocacy that would end the problem. But we also need to take concrete steps to reduce poverty, by accessing government programs addressing the plight of various sectors.” This is what Chesterton calls a “garden of wonders for those who are unable to read.”
On federalism, the Kilusan says, “we need to study the issue and what type of federalism is best suited for us. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this to the citizens?” This passage is the first official admission that the administration has no real understanding of what DU30 wants to impose upon the nation. Under the puppet Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the House of Representatives is ready to organize a constituent assembly and rubber-stamp DU30’s proposal to balkanize the Philippines in the name of an inverted federalism, or a federalism so grossly misunderstood.
Federalism is an excellent organizing principle for independent or semi-independent states, which want to coalesce into one federal republic. But it cannot and should not be used to subdivide an existing unitary state in order to come up with several federal states, regions or provinces. DU30 stands a better chance in working for a federal union for the Southeast Asian countries of Malay stock, after Rizal’s concept of “Malaya irredenta,” than in trying to subdivide an already unified republic into several states in order to put them back together again.
Hopefully, the Kilusan could jolt the President and his daydreaming satraps from their midday sleep.
Also, through the efforts of Kilusan, DU30 would hopefully realize that the fight against the oligarchy is the first fight a true revolutionary must wage in order to change the social structure of society. But DU30 may have already lost this fight when he singled out the laughably powerless Roberto Ongpin as “the oligrach,” without any mention of the Ayalas, the Lopezes and the big names appearing yearly on the Forbes magazine listing of world dollar billionaires.
Finally, in the short-listing of crimes to deal with, perhaps the Kilusan could persuade DU30 to include illegal gambling, which was one of the major grounds for Estrada’s impeachment, among the crimes he could go after with the same zeal as his war on drugs. It does not add to his reputation to hear reports that some people have already entered into an arrangement with the gambling lords of Southern Tagalog for a protection fee of P300 million a month.
The Kilusang Pagbabago seems to have an immense potential for good. But its potential downside is equally enormous. Using extensive government funds, personnel and resources, it could be utilized to organize a parallel bureaucracy to create a Stalinist cult around the President, and create a resurgent communist state, patterned after North Korea, a rogue state, long after international communism had lost the Cold War and the largest remaining communist state has adopted market capitalism to lead the global economic race.